A developmental study of children's stereotyping of facially deformed adults


Department of Psychology, North East London Polytechnic, London El5 4LZ, UK.


A frequent complaint of facially deformed people is that they are rejected by others. This study was designed to examine whether negative reactions to facially deformed people would be demonstrated by girls and boys aged 5–11 years. The children were asked to attribute positive or negative characteristics to photographs in which adults were shown before and after minor oral surgery. Despite the relatively small differences in appearance between each adult's before- and after-operation photographs, it was found that, whereas overall the younger children selected faces at around chance level (i.e. 50 per cent), the 11-year-olds on 75 per cent of occasions selected in response to questions concerning friendliness and helping (deemed ‘positive’) the after-operation photographs, and in response to questions concerning fear and anger (deemed ‘negative’) the before-operation photographs. When the children's own judgements of facial attractiveness were related to the faces they had chosen in response to positive and negative questions, while again for the five-year-olds only chance responding (50 per cent) was observed, by age seven 75 per cent, and by age 11 90 per cent, of choices suggested facial stereotyping.